Sunday, June 24, 2018

Thought for a Sabbath Day:   “In the light of Jesus Christ, it makes sense not to be always striving, trying to have everything, governed by the laws of prestige and competition, the cult of abundance.  ‘Poverty in spirit’ means contented unpretentiousness and confident unconcernedness as a basic attitude.”       -  Hans Kung, Swiss theologian and author

Prayer as We Gather:  Lord, we feel hobbled this holy hour, straining under all the burdens we’ve placed on our own shoulders, like young David struggling under King Saul’s coat of armor, bronze helmet and sword imposed upon him by the crazy despot.  We stagger under bigotry ingrained within us from our birth, prejudices imbibed with our mother’s milk, the unwitting products of a cultural captivity so pervasive as to be indiscernible.  Grant us the shepherd boy’s audacity to refuse such unsolicited weight, declaring “I can’t walk in this!”  Help us shed the deadening load of nationalism, militarism, racism and greed, as our hearts yield to your perfect will for us through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Samuel 17)

Call to Worship:

God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times.

Sing your songs to God, tell God’s stories to everyone you meet.

Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough.

They’re trapped, those godless countries, in the very snares they set,

Their feet all tangled in the net they spread.

The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.

The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell.

No longer will the poor be nameless, no more humiliation for the humble.

Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with the empty strutting?

Expose those grand pretensions!  Show them how silly they look.  (Psalm 9, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Help us, Lord, not to be put off by apostle Paul’s abrasive self-confidence, hard-earned through the perils he endured in Jesus’ name.  Disabuse us of any lingering false modesty where faith is concerned, replacing it with honest self-reporting of hardships encountered in following Jesus’ example.  Give us strength to survive, as did Paul, “imprisonments, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger,” bearing it all with “knowledge, patience, generosity and genuine love, telling the truth in spite of verbal abuse, being seen as both fake and real, having nothing but owning everything.”  May we take personally Paul’s entreaty to “open your hearts wide, too,” as we bear before a watchful world the imprint of the undaunted Galilean carpenter who taught us to pray, saying … *(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 2 Corinthians 6)

Prayer of Confession:  Have mercy on us, Lord, for strutting our Christian faith around in shallow pantomime, only to dissolve in cringing fear when the storms of life are raging.  How very like Jesus’ first disciples we must appear, demanding of him in sheer panic when rough seas rocked their little boat: “Don’t you care that we’re drowning?” Forgive our proclivity for over-reacting when threatened by enemies perceived and real, and give us gumption to obey his stern rejoinder, that most difficult of all demands in these days of gushing, self-promoting social media profiles:  “Silence! Be still!” Grant us grace to shut up and listen, mindful that “Jesus knew for certain that only drowning people can see him,” after all.   Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 4 and the poetry of Leonard Cohen)

Assurance of Pardon:  Stop thrashing about, grab hold of Jesus, and hear the good news:  Nobody cares more about you than your risen Lord, who can with a word still the winds and calm the waves.  Our problems  stem largely from unwillingness to acknowledge and correct the destructive behaviors that landed us in peril in the first place.  Rescue is certain, for Jesus loves us no matter our brokenness, but survival hinges on our willingness to hear Jesus’ abiding question:  “Why are you frightened?  Don’t you have faith yet?”  Answer him.  Thanks be to God for Jesus’ enduring compassion, extended to all of us drenched and shivering wretches, once lost overboard but now found!*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Mark 4 and the poetry of reformed English slave trader John Newton)